Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 review

  • More control of how you play
  • Playing more powerful and fun decks
  • Better deck information
  • Limited deck customization
  • A few technical glitches
  • Missing out on tricky plays due to game timing

Nicol Bolas – the super-intelligent, interdimensional dragon – is back to his evil-plotting ways and he can get away with it too if not for you and those pesky planeswalkers.

The card game, Magic: The Gathering, is back with its annual downloadable offering, Duels of the Planeswalkers, brandishing new cards, a new gameplay mode and the snazzy 2013 subtitle. This is the third installment of the game in so many years, and it boasts a few more tricks up its magical sleeves.

For those unfamiliar with Magic: the Gathering, players take on the role of powerful wizards known as planeswalkers, who have the ability to jump between different planes of existence. These mages participate in duels, casting creature and spell cards in order to attack their opponents.

If you’ve yet to play Magic (either online or with physical cards), then this game is a great entry point. It’s very newbie friendly with good tips and tutorials to get you up to speed and playing Magic within a relatively short time. Duel is a good, cheap way to learn how to play the game in a low-pressure environment. Just don’t be surprised if you start craving some tougher Magic after this initial taste. There’s a reason players refer to the game as “cardboard crack.”

For those familiar with Magic and who’ve played previous iterations of Duel of the Planeswalkers, not much has changed. The game still provides a fair bit of challenge, even to those who have been in the game for years. The biggest difference from the 2012 version is the removal of the Archenemy Mode and the addition of Planechase gameplay. Here you’ll face off against three other planeswalkers, shifting dimensions thanks to the Planechase deck in the middle of the field.

Every turn, players have the chance to reveal a new Planechase card, each of which has various effects on the battlefield. One card might destroy all creatures, one may make creatures more powerful, and others supercharge the spells you cast. It’s a welcome change from the old Archenemy mode and much more interesting, fast-paced and fun to play. It gives you a better sense of agency than it did when you teamed up with two other players to take on a much more powerful opponent.

The game is also comes with 10 new decks. Each has its own distinct strategies; whether you like flying creatures, mono-black control decks, or overwhelming opponents with red goblin, there’s a deck for you. The decks themselves are a lot of fun to play with and will please amateurs and veterans alike. They also employ some new cards from Innistrad and the upcoming 2013 core set, and give you some pretty interesting and powerful cards to mess around with.  

There is also a new deck rating system, which shows players how big creatures are in a deck, the decks’ flexibility to deal with opposing strategies, and how much synergy the cards have with one another. The deck manager also shows you how many creatures a given deck has versus other cards. It’s a great way to get a sense of how each deck works at a glance; the more information you have about your decks the better you can play them. 

But overall the game hasn’t changed much. There is one minor tweak that makes a huge difference, however. The game taps your mana automatically and most of the time does a pretty good job of it. In the past, though, it could make some pretty terrible decisions and screw you out of playing a game-winning card by tapping the wrong land. Now at critical junctions the game will allow you to choose what mana you would like to keep open, which makes a huge difference. It’s a welcome change since this was one of our biggest gripes with previous games. 

Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 is, at its core, an update on an established, popular series and shares in the problems of previous versions. Veteran players will still feel a bit constricted by the relatively limited deck customization options compared to real-life Magic. Also it’s sometimes tough to know when you can cast a spell or use a card’s ability, especially during combat phases. So it is difficult to plan out super-tricky tactics that require great timing.

Still, veteran Magic players will enjoy the new decks and challenging puzzles here, and the game is a great way for potential planeswalkers to learn the ropes of this classic geek gaming staple.

More Info

Available Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, iPad
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes

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  • TheVoid - June 22, 2012 2:41 p.m.

    I simply don't understand why none of these games will allow you build your own decks, even if just with the cards included. The only thing that comes to mind is that doing so would potentially cannibalize their MTG Online offering, but that's pretty much EVERYTHING digitized. Allowing DOTP players the opportunity to build their own decks, even if just with the cards within the game (or maybe even a subset of those cards if WOTC is really that terrified) would open up an entirely new aspect of the game that has been completely ignored within this DOTP series, and might even lure more players over to MTG Online (which I'm guessing is the bigger money maker for WOTC). At least since 2012 the "within a single deck" customization options have improved, which was a big step up from 2011. And 2013's "you can now choose what mana to use" tweak is certainly welcome, but I'm starting to take issue with this series' "oh it's pretty much the same thing as last time but we've fixed one more thing that has bugged you since 2011" approach. And why not make one DOTP game and make everything to follow DLC? It sucks I can't play my 2011 decks against 2012 and 2013. And while Planechaser seems nice and all, not sure it's enough for me to bite again, having already bought 2011 and 2012. Too bad there's no Commander play - that would have been awesome! That would have opened my wallet for sure. Question - in the (limited) deck management available in 2013, can I (finally) adjust the land in the deck (either by type or - more importantly - amount). In 2011 and 2013 there were more than a few decks that I felt could have benefitted from more or less land. In 2011 the deck customization options were quite limited but in 2013 you had a lot more control - except for land. Has that been addressed? If not I bet you money that it will be that "oh we fixed one more thing" tweak in DOTP 2014! Otherwise glad that the series is getting better rather than worse. 2011 and 2012 were both quality releases that I still play frequently. Agreed that existing fans and those remotely interested will find a great deal of solid strategy gaming in this series. The best thing they could have done was basically replicate the tabletop experience, which is exactly what they've done, so kudos to WOTC there.
  • Voodoowolfe - June 22, 2012 8:09 p.m.

    Dude if they let you build the decks, the way you wanted, there would be no reason to play MTGO. Where you have to pay to get the cards you want.
  • angelusdlion - June 22, 2012 8:23 p.m.

    Because they'd compete with Magic online where you pay real world card prices for virtual cards.
  • TheVoid - June 26, 2012 10:47 p.m.

    Hold on folks - read what I said: "The only thing that comes to mind is that doing so would potentially cannibalize their MTG Online offering". So thank you and Voodoowolfe for pointing that out, even though I already did. Here's the very next line. Ready? "Allowing DOTP players the opportunity to build their own decks, even if just with the cards within the game (or maybe even a subset of those cards if WOTC is really that terrified) would open up an entirely new aspect of the game that has been completely ignored within this DOTP series, and might even lure more players over to MTG Online (which I'm guessing is the bigger money maker for WOTC)." So what I'm suggesting here is that DOTP offer a single set - if not less (as I doubt all cards in DOTP 2013 will represent all the cards in the upcoming 2013 core set) - for players to build decks with. Maybe even just 5 decks worth - one for each color. Just enough to give otherwise unfamilar players a taste of what that side of Magic is all about and I'm betting they'll see more traffic to Magic Online (if not the traditional game itself), which offers how many more cards/sets than all of the DOTP games combined? A shit ton more, if I'm not mistaken. I would think that for every person that puts down DOTP in favor of Magic Online, WOTC would consider that a customer gained, not lost, yet they are failing to capitalize on one of the games most addictive (and therefore money making) aspects. Some would argue the deck building aspect of MTG is half the game, I'm just saying it would be cool if WOTC dropped a little bit of that into DOTP. Better yet, make DOTP a full-fledged gateway into MTG Online. A generous yet affordable entry point to the game limiting the player to just the cards/decks available in DOTP with the capacity to "buy in" to MTG Online for more cards/decks for further customization (which wouldn't be limited otherwise). Of course, that would be a PC-exclusive approach, but PCs have always been fertile ground for such experimentation. If it really took off, something tells me MTG Online for consoles would not be far behind.
  • MasterBP - June 22, 2012 4:59 p.m.

    Already got it, fun as hell. Anyone know when the promo packs will be ready for pickup?
  • nick-ilic - June 23, 2012 2:53 a.m.

    Planechase is boring and broken. ( 4 Man FFA with Dice Rolls ) Boring because each turn takes way to long. Watching the Dice roll about 10 times every turn drove me nuts. Also looking at cards with awesome art is way better than staring at a boring dice cube roll around. Broken because the dice element now adds too much of a luck factor to the game. The way it works is every turn you can spend 1 mana for a chance to cast a spell. That spell would , if it was a card , normally cost about 3-5 mana.
  • anthony-meeko - June 23, 2012 7:52 p.m.

    Well pretty much i will def agree this game needs build your own deck in it and you are pretty limited to what cards you can put in each deck. I mean if i want 4 of a card sorry cant do it there is only 2 that i can add to the deck well that sux so really good cards get limited and i ahev to deal with premade crap that was given to me..... that is the biggest downfall to the game and i rather save my money on this crap and go download Magic work station were i have all cards at my fingertips and play online for free big let down hope they make it better next year ....
  • zombi3grim - June 23, 2012 9:19 p.m.

    I used to play Magic. Before I got a life. Baahahahaha! Just kidding...I just dont have the time for it anymore.